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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Tenure brings controversy and consequences


UB has an intense and complicated six-year process for professors looking to obtain tenure. As complicated as the process may be, it's still questionable if tenure is as beneficial to students looking for a good education as it is to teachers seeking job security.

According to Lucinda Finley, vice provost of faculty affairs, tenure is granted after review by the dean, provost office, and human resources. Tenure is a guarantee of employment in the faculty position, until retirement or other voluntary resignation.

It is very difficult to remove a tenure professor from their position at UB, according to Finley.

"There has to be serious aggressive misconduct and many levels of adjudication," Finley said.

This permanency worries students like Joseph Crane, a sophomore business major, who said he is experiencing the worst professor he has ever had this semester.

"She is never prepared for class, never organized and she refuses to use power point so we can't print out the notes," Crane said. "No one takes her seriously."

Crane said that he has dealt with professors not showing up for office hours, and professors canceling class at the last minute. Crane knows there is little he can do about these problems.

Professors are encouraged from the beginning of the tenure process to be intensely involved in activities outside the classroom, which some students fear may ultimately lead to less effort in lessons plans.

"The professor writes statements about their research, teaching and service," Finley said. "Service is considered part of their job, which includes participations in committees, professional societies, manuscript reviews, and helping to organize conferences."

Albert Michaels, Ph.D., a tenured professor in the history department, said that he feels very strongly that teaching is not considered enough in the process because UB is a research university.

Many professors are experts in their field with more interest in their outside work causing students to face tenured professors who have little interest or training in teaching.

"I had one math teacher who didn't actually teach," said Jane Blatz, a freshmen business major. "She would just write things on the board but not explain it."

Rozana Melandinidis, a junior accounting major said she had a math teacher who barely spoke English, and would also just write on the board.

"He was a nice guy, but I couldn't understand him," Melandinidis said. "I don't know if he should have been teaching class."

Finley said that it ultimately comes down to individuals that care about students.

Jessica Hamm, a freshman exercise science major, said that her ENG101 instructor had good online reviews, but was one of the worst instructors she has ever had.

"Every day was questionable if he would show up or not, and he was usually late," Hamm said. "He was never prepared. He just sat there and asked us questions."

Kostran said there is not a lot of accountability for the instructors, and wishes there was more in order to insure instructors are stronger.

Because tenure provides job security, it may seem easy for professors to lose interest in their classroom duties, but there is still potential for promotion after the tenure is granted, which keeps professors motivated.

"The highest rank is full professor," Finley said. "A full professor has to show they achieved a significant national and international reputation. If they want to get promoted to the highest rank, they have to continue to demonstrate excellence in scholarship and teaching."

Michaels has been with UB for 43 years, and said that tenure has helped him become stronger in his career.

"Tenure has protected me from the anger of my liberal colleagues," Michaels said. "I love teaching and I love students. I really love being in the classroom and I have no plans to retire."

Students find that some tenured professors are more reliable and wise than their teaching assistant counterparts.

"[Michaels] brings real life experiences to his classes," said Michael Ellman, a sophomore history major. "He will help you intensely with your work if you seek out for it."

Michaels said that he thinks the tenure process works, and that he has seen very few people who have abused it.

"At a school such as UB, most of the people who are here want to teach and want to do research," Michaels said. "They have no incentive to abuse it because they like what they are doing."

Despite possible negative consequences, the tenure process is necessary to acquire and retain top rate professors.

Jenelle Kostran, an adjunct instructor in mathematics, said that a lack of tenure has caused the university to lose excellent instructors to schools that offer it. She said that at UB, the contracts for instructors are usually by a yearly basis or a semester-by-semester basis.

Not only is there a risk of losing quality instructors to other schools, but instructors who are signed for only one year contracts versus tenured contracts may lack experience and knowledge, Kostran said.

Whether the instructor in front of a classroom is an adjunct instructor, an assistant professor or a tenured professor, it is important for students to voice their opinion of the classroom experience, especially through evaluations, Michaels said.

Michaels said that the current administration is more interested in teaching than ever before.

"The classroom evaluations are more important and will play a bigger role for the upcoming tenure applicants," Finely said. "The tenure process will bring overall stronger professors that will remain in the university and bring stronger academic benefits for students."




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